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Women in Wine: what’s it actually like from 8 leading figures #IWD2021

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, I have asked 7 top figures of the world of wine to share their view on what’s it like to be women in wine today.

1) Laura Donadoni: wine journalist, educator and published author

Women in wine: Laura Donadoni at her desk smelling wine
Credit: Laura Donadoni

What’s it like to be a woman in wine?

It’s challenging. In some circumstances we are still subject to the sexual biases. But I see more sensitivity in the new generations, more respect and equality. I am hopeful it’s just a matter of time.

Find her work: on Instagram @theitalianwinegirl, her blog and podcast. She has also released the book « Come il vino te cambia la vità » which will be translated and published in English in fall 2021.

2) Virginie Lopes: CEO of Portuliège, provider of organic corks

Virginie Lopes, CEO of Portuliège, smiling
Credit: Virginie Lopes

What’s it like to be a woman in wine?

Being a woman who provides corks isn’t commonplace, especially running a business in this field. The female representation in the wine industry increases. Now I meet more women than when I started 5 years ago. It’s a fascinating job in a world of passionate people, men or women. I love bringing my expertise, my sensitivity and my benevolence. Since 2016 I’ve focused more on a sustainable development: organic corks and recycling them for France Cancer association. My job is all about understanding wine producers’ values and products to give them the best possible advice. Especially because I’m specialised in organic, biodynamic and natural producers. They require a particular care for bottle ageing. Promoting the noble and ecological material that is cork is my driving force.

Find her work: on Instagram @portuliege, Facebook, LinkedIn, the website or contact Virginie!

3) Maria-Francesca Devichi: wine producer in Corsica (Patrimonio PDO + Muscat du Cap Corse), sixth generation and first woman running the estate

Women in Wine: Mlle D, smiling in the middle of her vines
Credit: Mlle D.

What’s it like to be a woman in wine?

It’s an honor and a privilege to make wine, ancestral and almost mystical beverage. I grow my vines, produce my grape juice, make my wine and sell it. On my humble level I try to shine a light on terroirs and varieties with identity.

It’s also a lot of pressure. This is peculiar to each producer (man or woman), farmer and even business owner. We don’t save lives, we do nothing heroic. But we get to observe the fruit of our labours every day, the evolution and progress (which can be destroyed in a blink).

In our world being a woman isn’t easy at all. In Corsica only one-third of farms are run by women. Nothing surprising here, whatever people on my island think, Corsica is a matriarchal society for a very long time. However being a self-employed woman means you need to be organised with other hats, like being a mom. It also means not competing with men for a similar position and getting paid less than them, and that’s not bad!

Find her work: at the estate in Barbaggio, otherwise on the website www.mlledevichi.com and social media Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Instagram 

4) Senay Ozdemir: wine importer, storyteller and founder of the Women In Wine Expo

Senay Ozdemir smiling and holding a glass of wine
Credit: Senay Ozdemir

What’s it like to be a woman in wine?

Even though the wine industry is extremely white and yes, mostly men, I was – surprisingly – welcomed so well! Yes, we all have a prejudice about this industry – old, cigar-smoking men in the library of a 14th century French chateau – but the industry itself is TOTALLY different. I was surprised to see how innovative and welcoming the 400 billion worth (US figures on a yearly basis) is for fresh ideas! Never expected that I could be part of one of the most fascinating, dynamic and globally interconnected businesses in the world. Never have I made connections as easily as I did with winemakers, sommeliers, wine writers or any other professionals in the wine world, throughout my whole career. And with Clubhouse now, it gets even easier to connect with women in the industry from all around the world. I hope they will all have the opportunity to connect with me.

Find her work: on Instagram @senay_pr and @womeninwineexpo. « About the next Expo you can find information on our website https://www.womeninwineexpo.com. If wine professionals are interested in my wines, Urla and Corvus, they can send me an email. »

5) Aurelia Visinescu: winemaker for 30 years in Dealu Mare, Romania

Women in Wine: Aurelia Visinescu in her cellar
Credit: Aurelia Visinescu

What’s it like to be a women in wine?

I have been asked this question many times. But honestly, I have never encountered discrimination or the opposite, positive discrimination. Maybe it is because I have a strong personality and I work in the same way with men and women. The most important thing is that we are all professionals. I believe my role is to make the best of what nature gives us. It may sound poetic, but it’s actually a lot of work, both in the vineyard and in the winery. It takes knowledge, experience and a little bit of talent and passion. As a winemaker, I’m not only working in the winery trying to make the best wines I have ever made each year, but I also pay a lot of attention to the vineyard. I think it’s essential to have balance, to be in harmony with nature because wine starts from the vineyard.

Find her work: on Instagram and her website. « The wines I make in my winery in Dealu Mare DOC area are present in Europe, Asia, the States, Canada and some in Brazil. We exported on the Ivory Coast as well. Most of the wines I make at Sahateni are distributed in restaurants and specialized stores. But we do have ranges dedicated to hypermarkets. »

6) Clara Herrero: wine grower in Rioja DOCa

Clara Herrero holding a glass of wine in-between barrels
Credit: Clara Herrero

What’s it like to be a woman in wine?

Nowadays I don’t feel my work or me is different or special because of my gender. My role is to try to grow the best quality grapes for the wineries I sell them so we can together enhance the region and make it known inside and outside Rioja.

Find her work: I try to show my work in Finca Vistahermosa in social media like Instagram or Facebook making videos explaining vine growing. Also you can find my wine in Spanish shops and restaurants.

7) Elizabeth Gabay: Master of Wine, educator, consultant & author

Women in Wine: Elizabeth Gabay MW, smiling
Credit: Elizabeth Gabay

My role is primarily education. Education of journalists, wine merchants, sommeliers whether through articles, tutored tastings, conferences. I also do behind the scenes consultancy and marketing for various appellations in France, Italy and Hungary. As the author of a serious guide to rosé, it is also a major focus of my work.

What’s it like to be a woman in wine?

No idea! Have never worked as a man so cannot compare. As an older more mature member of the wine trade, fairly equal – although I do think men of the same level are regarded as senior, more important – so I do have to work hard to maintain an equal reputation. I think men usually can command higher fees. Focusing on rosé is perceived as the sort of thing a woman would work with!

Find her work: « I write for a variety of journals – largely anglophone. The Drinks Business, Decanter, The Buyer, Guild Somm, Meininger, as well Italian and Hungarian press. Since lockdown I have been doing regular instagramlive podcasts called #iloverocknrosé talking about rosé with Indian wine writer and speaker Sumita Sarma. Starting a new instagramlive chat with German-French wine writer Birte Jantzen called #cellararchaeology about old wines lurking in our cellars. » On her Instagram and website!

8) Natalie MacLean: food & wine pairings online teacher, author of 2 books & host of a NY Times best-drinks podcast

Women in wine: Natalie MacLean with two glasses of wine
Credit: Natalie MacLean

What’s it like to be a woman in wine?

The role for women is changing in the wine world, from being a minority to being increasingly part of many spheres. That said, we have a long way to go before we achieve any sort of equality, whether that’s pay or senior positions.

Find her work: at www.nataliemaclean.com and on Instagram @nataliemacleanwine. Her podcast Unreserved Wine Talk is on iTunes/Apple, Spotify, Amazon and all the places.

Now I’m curious:

What’s your view on being women in wine? Have you faced any challenges?

Let me know in the comments below!


Alexia Hupin

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